A heavily-sedated Siberian tiger cub was used as a prop and paraded on stage for the amusement of gamblers at the opening of a flag-ship casino in Russia.
The story broke on November 16 and was widely reported by newspapers in the United Kingdom and Europe, sparking outrage over the treatment of the five-month-old female tiger cub named Crystal. Local blogger Irina Butkovska said it was “very frustrating” the casino “began with a crime…animal abuse,” according to an article in the Daily Mail.
The casino is part of the new, high-profile Tigre de Cristal complex on the eastern fringe of Siberia. Reports describe a scene in which glamorous women in tiger body paint performed for the crowd against a backdrop of bright lights, slot machines and blaring music.
The Daily Mail reported that the casino freely admitted sedating the cat, which was moved 4,850 miles from a zoo in the Ural Mountains after being purchased by the casino for $6,800. Amur or Siberian tigers are highly endangered. Only about 450 still live in the wild. They remain threatened because of the China-based trade in tiger bones and other body parts.
Police have launched an investigation after the treatment of the endangered cat was highlighted by the Siberian Times, which ran this headline: “Sedated Tigress Causes Shock at Glitzy Grand Opening of Major Casino.” The casino management said the tiger was given a liquid sedative so she would not bite anyone.
“In terms of moral and ethical aspects, it is not good,” Sergei Aramilev, of the Amur Tiger center, told the Siberian Times. The cub reportedly lives in a local zoo. The casino plans to use her for special events and parties.